First Looks – Sony’s New Audio Gear

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Just in time for the holidays, Sony is unveiling a new line of headphones along with a connected speaker that uses Google Assistant. We had an opportunity to look at the new line, which features three new sets of noise canceling headphones. Two of the three also support Hi-Res Audio. Here’s a rundown of the new products, and our first impressions.

1000X Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones – WF-1000X – Sony is joining the ranks of those creating a truly wireless in-ear experience. Like many others, the Sony earbuds use a case that charges them up. They automatically turn on when you take them out. I have tried a number of competitive earbuds and found the WF-1000X did a better job of fitting in my ears than any other (I have very narrow ear canals). Also, these have true noise canceling, so if you want to use them on the train they will shut out the extraneous noise. They take advantage of the new Sony Headphones Connect app which allows a great deal of customization including an equalizer and the ability to set the ambient noise level if you choose to hear what’s going on around you. The earbuds do not support Hi-Res playback. The playback time is up to 9 hours, which is pretty good for wireless earbuds. Price is $200.
Behind the Neck Wireless headphones – WI-1000X  – These headphones offer a number of enhancements over the competition.  They also use the Sony Headphones Connect App to customize your listening experience. There’s an equalizer. You can adjust the ambient noise level you want, and you can virtually position the sound source so the music comes from the spot you like the best. If you run them in noise canceling mode you can get up to 10 hours of playback time. Up to 14 hours without noise cancellation. They come with Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing which further optimises noise canceling performance to enjoy in-flight entertainment on long trips. The WI-1000X’s design includes zip style cable management and vibration alerts for incoming calls. It takes 3 1/2 hours to fully charge the battery, though you can get 70 minutes of playback from a quick 15 minutes charge. We had an opportunity to listen to a number of Hi-Res tracks and thought the sound reproduction was excellent. Also impressive is the degree of customization from the Headphone Connect app. The phones deliver sound features such as High-Resolution Audio, LDAC, DSEE HX and S-Master HX. Price is $300.

Sony Premium Noise Cancelling Wireless Behind-Neck In Ear Headphones – Black (WI1000X/B)

WH-1000XM2 Over-The-Ear Headphones. These are an upgrade to the widely acclaimed MDR-1000X which we’ve been enjoying since they were introduced. The upgrades still include noise cancellation technology, support for Hi-Res Audio, Ambient Sound mode, Personal Noise Cancelling Optimizer, and the Quick Attention Mode to provide a premium listening experience. That function will let you interrupt the music so you can carry on a conversation. The WH-1000XM2 adds compatibility with Sony | Headphones Connect app for Noise Cancelling performance upgraded with the world’s first Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing (for flights), Ambient Sound Control, an Equalizer, Surround and Sony’s audio processing technology, the 5 SENSE ENGINE, an integrated technology of Sony’s audio signal processing and analyzing techniques. Battery life has been improved to up to 30 hours of battery life or up to 40 hours of battery life with noise canceling via a wired audio connection, making them ideal on the longest of international flights. If a recharge is needed in a hurry, the Quick Charge function can add up to 70 mins of battery life in just 10 minutes. Perhaps best of all, Sony lowered the price by $50 to $350.

Sony WH1000XM2 Premium Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones – Black (WH1000XM2/B)

LF-S50G Wireless Speaker with Google Assistant – With this smart speaker, Sony joins the race to get connected technology from folks like Google and Amazon Echo into connected speakers. Using the LF-S50G wireless speaker users can start playing music, turn up the volume, or, skip to the next track just by using their voice, starting with “Ok Google.” Users can ask the Assistant on LF-S50G wireless speaker for a weather forecast or traffic information, or simply to set a timer for the eggs. The Assistant on LF-S50G can also control a growing number of smart devices that can do almost everything from setting the temperature to turning down the lights. The wireless speaker also has gesture control for music playback. That means that if you’re in the kitchen you can operate music functions without putting your messy hands on the device. It has a 360 degree, vertical two-way facing speaker system that can fill the average room with sound. A full range speaker reproduces vocal and treble notes, a dedicated subwoofer reproduces bass sounds, and the omnidirectional two stage diffuser spreads the sound in all directions. The LF-S50G can be used in the kitchen with a handy clock and has a IPX3 splash-proof design with a water-repellent surface and a grill that’s removable for light cleaning. We were able to listen to the speaker in a side by side comparison with the original Google Home speaker and found the sound quality of the Sony was discernibly better than Google’s. Price is $200.
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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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